American Beer
dir. Kermizian
Opens Fri Sept 17
Clinton Street Theater

I once dated the youngest certified beer judge in the nation, who also worked at a beer store, wrote for a brewing publication, and made his own beer. He drank so much beer that after being around him I was so sick of it I couldn't drink beer for over a year after we broke up. That guy might like American Beer.

In all fairness, the film's premise serves as a pretty bold red flag: a documentary about a handful of guys driving to 38 different microbreweries across the country. When they get there, they--dig this--drink beer and bullshit with the owners. Watching all of this is a lot like being stuck hanging out with someone else's lame, witless friends--except no one talks or listens to you, much less buys you a drink.

Don't get me wrong. I support the film's quasi-political aim of pointing out the symbiotically beneficial relationship between independent businesses and independent business patrons. But if it needs to be pointed out at all anymore, it needs to be done with way more depth than this film is equipped to handle.

There's no pretending going on here, at least; the film is above board with its amateurishness, making not even one desperate stab at artfulness. But if director Paul Kermizian really wanted to make a compelling documentary, he needed to either get a better idea (after Super Size Me, the "harebrained scheme" of docilely pub crawling for a whopping 40 days is sooo weak) or a far larger budget. The makers of classroom videos discovered decades ago that if you want to teach people something relatively boring, it's best to throw in some cartoons. Or at least do some clever editing, or throw in a few funny and/or attractive people. Jesus, do something.

But it's the fact that American Beer has potential that makes the final product such a buzzkill. A smart, stimulating expose of the way in which an increasingly corporate world is negatively impacting the little guys in a particular industry? With beer? Sure, that could be watchable. But just a bunch of drunk dullards with a van? I'll pass.